Month: September 2014

Adventures in Cheese Making Part Deux: The Magic of Rennet

I made mozzarella!! It’s in an ice bath in my kitchen right now! The heartache of my earlier cheese making adventures has dissipated. I AM A MIGHTY CHEESE MAKER HEAR ME ROAR!! Mozzarella was so easy to make that I think one of my kids could do it, but damn, I feel impressive!

I used my kit from New England Cheese Making Supply Company. The kit came with rennet tablets (I overcompensated buying the rennet by the way, I now have enough rennet to make cheese for the masses in the event of an apocalypse.), citric acid, a thermometer, some cheesecloth, cheese salts (not sure how cheese salt is different than regular salt), and an instruction book. I already had some citric acid, and the thermometer was a wee bit too short for the pot I was using, but the instruction book was priceless. The whole process took less than an hour.

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Here are the curds forming in my pot. Yay rennet!

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Here’s my precious mozzarella chilling in a water bath! Success is so sweet! Or salty if you’re making cheese. 🙂

The mozzarella came out awesome. A gallon of milk minus 1C (I used powdered milk, which I rehydrated) and 1C of heavy cream made about a one pound round of mozzarella. You can break it down into smaller balls while it’s warm, but I decided to play it easy this time. 

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Finished mozzarella!!

The only drawback was making mozzarella seemed smellier than the other cheeses I’ve been making. I think it might be the rennet, it’s an enzyme from a baby animal’s stomach that breaks down his mother’s milk for digestion. That’s an educated guess, because I feel like the whole experience (my kitchen and my hands) kind of smelled like baby puke. Which would make sense because the rennet is “digesting” the milk just the way the calf or lamb (or baby human) would. I assure you the cheese does not smell like baby puke, please do not let this deter you from making cheese which as you can see is an amazing experience. 

Also, I now have a bunch of jars of whey. I’m going to start giving them away to people on the street. Just kidding but I guess I will have to take a mini-hiatus from my cheese obsession to find a use for all this whey.

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So. Much. Whey.

Adventures in Cheese Making: Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)

The labneh came out of the fridge yesterday and I am starting to feel more confident in my cheese making skills. Put it in a bowl and seasoned it with some EVOO and kosher salt (hopefully solving the not-enough-salt problem I ran into with the lemon cheese). From my 36oz. of Greek yogurt came 2 lovely logs of labneh. (And that big mason jar full of whey.) It has a tangy taste and a creamy consistency somewhere between cream cheese and goat cheese. I plan to serve it to some of my wino friends tomorrow- alongside some homemade jam (cherry or blueberry) and yummy wines, natch. 

Currently, I have a pitcher of milk made from dry milk and some heavy cream in my fridge waiting to try out mozzarella making! I’ve seen it done tableside, and it’s always an impressive sight. Hopefully I can pull it off. Wonderful World of Rennet here I come!

Adventures in Cheese Making: Lemon Cheese Trial

So the lemon cheese came out of the fridge yesterday. We tasted it with some nice, crusty ciabatta bread. The consistency was that of cream cheese or goat cheese- soft and spreadable but very slightly grainy. Had a nice creamy taste but definitely needed some salt. My store bought cheese making kit contains “cheese salt”. Will have to do some research about when to salt the cheese; I’m so new at this that I’m afraid that salting will hurt and possibly break down my happy little curds.

Tomorrow will be the moment of truth with the labneh– then onto mozzarella and the wonderful world of rennet! I am a burgeoning cheese maker! Who knew?

Adventures in Cheese Making: UPDATE

I have pulled the lemon cheese out of the nut milk bag. I used a quart of milk and I have a soft cheese ball that is slightly smaller than a tennis ball! I put it in a bowl and mixed in some dried dill weed. Then I rolled it up into a round ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to chill until tomorrow. Tomorrow, the big taste test! And pix! And hopefully cheesy happiness! (Pun intended.)

Also, I now have a mason jar full of whey in my fridge that I need to figure out how to use… ideas?

Adventures in Cheese Making: Part 1: Nut Milk Bags and Lemon Juice

Over the past few weeks I have been on a dairy adventure. Having never done so, I decided to try my hand at cheese making. I’m a decent baker of bread, maker and canner of jams, I’ve even made my own lox. I get a kick out of making things from scratch that most people do not or cannot. How hard could it be to make my own cheese? I set to work researching various cheese recipes on Pinterest, natch. I pinned about a half-dozen recipes in all. Many needed rennet, an enzyme present in the stomachs of baby animals [calves, kids (baby goats) etc] which helps them break down their mother’s milk. In cheese-making, it is used to aid in the separation of the milk into curds and whey. I did a bit more research and found out that my local beer and wine making supply store also carried rennet tablets and quickly planned a field trip there (about an hour away) with a foodie friend. In the meantime I checked out a couple of the recipes that did not use rennet, but did their milk curdling using acid (lemon juice or vinegar typically) and decided to give them a whirl. A goat cheese recipe made with lemon particularly peaked my interest. I visited my local grocery and picked up some goat’s milk:

 

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I was so happy I even tweeted about it!

Then, I stopped at my local kitchen supply store to grab some cheesecloth and actually ended up settling on a nut milk bag instead– a fine mesh bag used to make your own nut milks. You know, like almond milk or cashew milk… Apparently, you can also use them to make cold brew coffee. What a neat versatile little item! Plus, it’s fun to say nut milk bag. I was ready to Become A Cheese Maker.

Initially, pre-rennet, I was working from these 2 recipes for Lemon Cheese & Goat Cheese. I juiced my lemons (it ended up being about 2) and got my goat’s milk heating on the stove. Both recipes called for the milk to reach 180ºF. The goat’s milk reached the magic number, I added the lemon juice and waited for the curdling to commence…. NOTHING. One recipe said it would take 20 seconds. I was heartbroken to find that I waited 10 minutes…15 minutes and still nothing happened at all. What had gone wrong? I started to poke around on the interwebs for answers and here’s what I came up with: a few cheese makers said they let their milk reach 200ºF, a few said leave the mixture on the heat to wait for the curdle, most said remove it from the heat (neither recipe was very specific about this), and all said YOU CAN’T CURDLE ULTRA-PASTEURIZED MILK. Hold up, the milk I bought was the same as the milk pictured in the recipe…

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I was so upset I tweeted about it. 😦

Literally the exact same. So how come she was getting curds and I was getting lemony milk? Something was afoot. I had one more quart of goat’s milk left so I tried this recipe that curdles the milk using vinegar. Nada. I was feeling very discouraged, and sadly put away my nut milk bag to try anew after the rennet field trip.

In the meantime I continued to pin cheese recipes (and also some nut milk recipes- what the hell, I have a nut milk bag now) when I ran across this little gem– it’s a recipe for cheese made from Greek yogurt. It’s Middle Eastern in origin- they call it Labneh and it’s served with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and olive oil and a bit of black pepper. It takes about 4 days to make and is currently in my fridge successfully dripping whey. 

Because i am a glutton for punishment, I needed to try that lemon juice recipe again with milk that was not ultra-pasteurized. The bad news is raw milk is not legal to sell in retail stores in my state. It’s some kind of stupid government milk conspiracy I’m sure. So if I want raw milk I would need to purchase it directly from a dairy farm. Perhaps when I get further into becoming a cheese maker that’s something I will try. I had to really look hard to find normal pasteurized milk in my local grocery- turns out the milk I normally buy for drinking is also ultra pasteurized. So I tried the infamous lemon juice cheese recipe with regular pasteurized milk, let it get to 200ºF (almost starting to boil) and got a small ball of small curds that are dripping whey in my fridge. Winning! 

When I picked up my rennet tablets I also picked up this mozzarella and ricotta kit: 

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The booklet included with the kit says you can also use powdered milk and a little cream to make your mozzarella. And the microwave? So once the labneh and lemon cheese are completed (hopefully successfully) this will be next on my cheese-making agenda. 

Stay tuned for Adventures in Cheese Making: Part 2